On 30 June 2023, the countdowns stopped and the sun set… on Universal Analytics (UA).
(Thanks, Jake, for sharing this video in Slack back in April; it struck the perfect tone.)
And the marketing world didn’t end! In fact, a new world is just beginning – the exciting, daunting, powerful measurement world of Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Do I have to use GA4?
No, you don’t. However, if you want a free-to-use analytics platform with a suite of (free) accessible reporting features on top of a (free) toolkit for managing and measuring your website actions… then GA4 is really the only solution out there.
If you’re taking the UA breakup personally, you can move to alternative platforms, like Matomo or Adobe Analytics, but these will come with a price and are rarely plug-and-play in the same way as GA4.
I have no idea what I’m doing.
You’re not alone if you have felt overwhelmed by the transition from UA to GA4. It’s the biggest shake-up in analytics in over 10 years, and by far the most publicised and inflexible deadline of any Google migration (at least in living-marketing memory) and, given Google’s history with product rollouts and pivots, you’d be forgiven for burying your head in the sand and waiting for the announcement to quietly slip away without taking up any more of your time.
But it didn’t and here we are: in a brand new product rollout, buttons and acronyms everywhere, back at analytics square one.
So what do I do now?
If you’ve been ignoring all the GA4 noise over the past 6 months (or 2 years, for the truly stubborn marketer) then you have some catching up to do. It’s been a steep learning curve but a rewarding one. We’ve broken down everything we’ve learned over the past 1.5 years of our GA4 migration journey into 10 easily actionable steps to help you get the most out the new platform.
1. Set up your GA4 property.
The first step is to set up your GA4 property. This is a relatively simple process, but there are a few things you need to do to make sure you’re getting the most out of your data.
- Make sure you’re using the correct tracking code. The GA4 tracking code is different from the UA tracking code, so you’ll need to update your website or app to use the new code.
- Set up your data collection. You can choose to collect data from all of your website or app traffic, or you can choose to collect data from specific events or pages.
- Create your first report. Once you’ve collected some data, you can create your first report. GA4 offers a variety of pre-built reports, or you can create your own custom reports.
If you’ve not touched UA or GA4 in the last 3 months then there is a chance that you have already been auto-migrated with Google’s ‘Jumpstart’ program. This means a GA4 property has been created for you, is being deployed to your site through your UA tracking code and Google has tried to copy your UA goals and events over to GA4. Depending on the complexity of your website, this may be enough, but if you want to make the most of GA4 then we recommend starting a brand new property and planning out your data from scratch.
2. Understand the GA4 measurement model.
One of the biggest changes in GA4 is the measurement model. In UA, data was collected in sessions and pageviews. In GA4, data is collected in events. This means that you need to think about your data in a different way in GA4.
- Events are the basic unit of measurement in GA4. An event is any interaction that a user has with your website or app.
- Properties are the containers for your data. A property can be a website, an app, or a combination of both.
- Metrics are the measures of your data. Metrics can be things like pageviews, sessions, or conversions.
- Dimensions are the attributes of your data. Dimensions can be things like user location, device type, or browser.
Google’s documentation can be a minefield but it’s fairly forthcoming and structured when it comes to GA4. Here’s our favourite Google cheatsheet for common reporting problems we encounter.
3. Explore the GA4 reporting tools.
GA4 Explorations are a powerful tool for exploring your data in more detail. They allow you to create custom reports, run ad hoc queries, and visualise your data in different ways.
- Explore your data in more detail and drill down to see how different factors interact with each other.
- Create custom reports to meet your specific needs. Explorations allow you to create custom reports that meet your specific needs.
- Visualise your data in different ways, such as using charts, tables, maps or funnels.
4. Use the GA4 machine learning features.
GA4 includes a number of machine learning features that can help you analyse your data and make better decisions. These features include predictive analytics, anomaly detection, and audience segmentation.
- The more data you give GA4 the better these insights will be.
- Implementing supplementary systems, such as Google Consent Mode, will improve the quality of your data and assist in training the data model.
- Use the ‘Insights’ icon on the top-right of any report in GA4 to see suggested questions for quick learnings.
- You can ask open questions in the top search bar inside GA4 to see insight-generated reports.
5. Connect GA4 with other Google products.
GA4 can be connected with other Google products, such as Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, and Google BigQuery. This allows you to use your GA4 data to improve your marketing campaigns and make better business decisions.
6. Start using the GA4 API.
The GA4 API gives you access to your data in a way that’s not possible through the web interface. You can use the API to create custom reports, automate data analysis, and integrate GA4 with other systems.
7. Join the GA4 community.
There is a growing community of GA4 users who are sharing tips and best practices. You can join the community by attending Google’s GA4 training, following GA4 experts on social media, or participating in online forums. Our personal favourites are Simo Ahava’s blog following and Analytics Mania for cutting-edge industry developments and solutions as well as easy-to-follow guides and tutorials.
8. Stay up-to-date with the latest GA4 features.
Google is constantly adding new features to GA4. To make sure you’re getting the most out of the platform, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest features. You can do this by subscribing to the GA4 blog, following Google on social media, or attending Google’s GA4 training.
9. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
GA4 is a new platform, and there’s still a lot to learn about it. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different features and settings to see what works best for you. Explorations, in particular, are ring-fenced to each Google user so you are safe to test out different configurations without the fear of breaking anything or confusing your colleagues.
10. Have fun!
GA4 is a powerful platform that can help you better understand your audience, offers actionable insights to improve your online presence and increase your conversions. So have fun exploring the platform and learning how to use it to your advantage.
…11. Bonus tip: Call in the cavalry.
When Google announced the UA sunset and the global migration to GA4, Fountain assembled a GA4 Taskforce of measurement technicians to evaluate, translate and implement our clients’ UA data into future-proofed GA4 insights.
Once stuck in, we found this an excellent opportunity to get away from the technical debt of years of UA measurement and revaluate KPIs with a modern, flexible data model. If this all seems too overwhelming, or you need a helping hand in getting started, then get in touch with us and we’ll have you talking to an expert in no time.